Sleeping Beauty gets a modern twist

The Sleeping Beauty show series at Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Selangor features the winners of The Dance Society Of Malaysia Solo Classical Ballet Competition 2009-2014.

The Sleeping Beauty show series at Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Selangor features the winners of The Dance Society Of Malaysia Solo Classical Ballet Competition 2009-2014.

AFTER the beautiful Princess Aurora pricks her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday, she falls into a deep slumber from which she can only wake up from if she gets kissed by a Prince.

When he finally appears and rouses her from her sleep, the whole kingdom makes merry at a lavish wedding ceremony ... and they lived happily ever after, never mind the fact that Aurora has been sleeping for a hundred years.

What if this were to happen in our world now? Assuming the lovely Aurora is the only one snoozing a century away, how would she react when she wakes up in a new world filled with strange new music and dance?

First performed in 1890, Sleeping Beauty is a ballet in a prologue and three acts, with music composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

Starting tomorrow, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) will be presenting its take on this classic tale. The show is slated under the D For Dancing series, DPAC’s in-house dance programme which aims to cultivate artistic exchanges and collaborative residencies. It features the winners of The Dance Society Of Malaysia Solo Classical Ballet Competition 2009-2014.

The first part of this production, choreographed by Frederick Lee Rocas from the Alabama Ballet, presents a variation on the Prologue and Act One of the original classical ballet, with choreography inspired by influential ballet master Marius Petipa.

Then, in an interesting plot twist courtesy of DPAC Dance Company artistic director Wong Jyh Shyong (JS), Aurora snoozes through a century of dance revolution – from George Balanchine’s neoclassical ballet introduced in the 1920s to William Forsythe’s contemporary ballet and dance styles which incorporate popular music.

When she awakes from her deep slumber, the dance world around her is foreign and new, very different from the one she knew and loved.

Rocas, who was born and raised in Manila, comments that Sleeping Beauty is the epitome of classical ballet and is constantly being revived by dance companies worldwide.

“I find it fascinating that this ballet is still relatable to audiences through the generations – it is timeless,” says the dancer who is currently based in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States.

Rocas started doing gymnastics when he was eight, and became a member of the Philippine National Gymnastics Team at 15. His sister introduced him to ballet when he was 19 and he has been dancing ever since.

He was recently down in Malaysia to conduct two ballet workshops at DPAC in June this year.

No stranger to Sleeping Beauty, Rocas performed the Blue Bird pas de deux (from Act Three of Sleeping Beauty) with the Alabama Ballet last year.

For DPAC’s production of The Sleeping Beauty 2014, he shares that the main challenge he had to deal with was choreographing the first part of the ballet with just eight dancers.

“The original ballet would consist of maybe more than 10 girls and 10 guys but I didn’t have that luxury,” he says of the eight young ladies ranging from ages 18 to 23.

“I had to re-choreograph some parts but still had to stay within the story with only eight girls to stage it. Though I had fewer dancers to work with than in most versions, I had to reconstruct the ballet in a fashion which gives this production its own flavour.”

He also notes that he usually does not use a narrative, so working on this production is in many ways a departure from his other works.

“It has forced me outside of my comfort zone creatively while at the same times working in a genre which I am very familiar with.”

Rocas says that the audience can expect to see a more traditional version of the story in the first half, which he choreographs, followed by a more contemporary second half, choreographed by JS.

“I think that DPAC has a very unique version of the ballet in that it embraces its classical roots while exploring contemporary possiblities. This show is a great example of classical and contemporary dance combining to make magic on stage,” he concludes.

The show, featuring dancers Lim Jie Jing, Tan Qiao Han, Ho Yuen Han, Ng Pei Fong, Lim Wei Ni, Yong Sett Yee, Foong Jia Yan and Chong Hoei Tzin, is approximately 65 minutes without intermission.

>The Sleeping Beauty 2014 is on at Damansara Performing Arts Centre (H-01, Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya) from Aug 22 to 24 at 8.30pm daily. Tickets are priced at RM38 and RM48. Visit for ticket purchase or call 03-4065 0001 or 03-4065 0002.